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code: 361051

Date: 2012/10/31 - 13:25

source: AP

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Veiled Muslim mayor 'Amra Babic' a first for Bosnia, possibly Europe

Amra Babic has blazed a trail in this war-scarred Balkan nation by becoming its first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe.

Bosnias first veiled mayor began her duties this week, after an election which saw her becoming the first hijab-clad mayor in the country, and possibly in Europe.

Amra Babic, who served as a regional finance minister before running for mayor, will now run the Bosnian town of Visoko, in an electoral win she describes as a victory of tolerance amid government debates elsewhere in Europe over laws to ban the Muslim veil.

Its a victory of tolerance, Babic, a wartime widow told the Associated Press last week. We have sent a message out from Visoko. A message of tolerance, democracy and equality. I am the East and I am the West, she declared. I am proud to be a Muslim and to be a European. I come from a country where religions and cultures live next to each other. All that together is my identity.

Now Babic, for the next four years, will run a town of 45,000 people, with a population consisting of mostly Bosnian-Muslims.

And her electoral pledge for the town? Babic has said she wants to fix the infrastructure, partly ruined by the Bosnian 1992-95 war; in turn hoping to make Visoko attractive for investments, encourage youth to start small businesses and lower the unemployment rate which stands at more than 25 percent.

Bosnia fell into civil war in 1992 that left 200,000 people dead and displaced millions as Serb forces launched ethnic cleansing campaign against Bosnian Muslims.

We are proud to have elected her, Muris Karavdic, 38, a local small business owner told AP. It doesnt matter whether she covers her head or not. She is smart and knows finances. Babic decided to wear her headscarf after her husband was killed while fighting in the Bosnian army in the war-scarred Balkan nation, the On Islam news website reported.

Bosnia, a small country on the Balkan Peninsula, is home to three ethnic constituent peoples: mainly Muslim-Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

Out of Bosnia and Herzegovinas nearly 4 million population, some 40 percent are Muslims, 31 percent Orthodox Christians and 10 percent Catholics.

Babic sees her victory as breaking multiple barriers, from bigotry against women in a traditionally male-dominated society to stigmatization of the hijab that sprang up under the communist regime. Finally we have overcome our own prejudices, she told AP. The one about women in politics, then the one about hijab-wearing women and even the one about hijab-wearing women in politics.

A new woman mayor in Bosnia who is the first in her country and the continent to wear the hijab headscarf, said her election was a model for Europe and Islam. This is a great victory of democracy. My fellow citizens showed a great open spirit because they elected me first as a woman but also as a woman who wears a veil, respecting Islam, said Amra Babic, elected Sunday in the town of Visoko. The 43-year-old won 30 percent of the votes in the October 7 local elections in Visoko, a town of some 40,000 inhabitants near the capital city of Sarajevo. Islam is very clear regarding the woman. It reserves for her a place in the public life and all those who interpret it correct know that this is the way it is, she stated. A mother of three and an economist, Babic added, I believe that my headscarf should not be a hindrance Europe will understand that it has to do with people who respect their own identity, but who are tolerant enough to respect the rights of others. Muslims are the biggest religious group in Bosnia and make up about 40 percent of the countrys population of 3.8 million. The hijab was banned under Communism when Bosnia was part of the federal Yugoslavia from 1945 until the early 1990s. www.passionislam.com Thursday, November 22, 2012

Transmission

Bosnian Town Elects Woman Mayor, Islamic Head Scarf And All

Amra Babic, the newly elected mayor of the central Bosnian town of Visoko

October 11, 2012

local election outside Sarajevo has produced some notable news related to

tolerance and government in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Beset with obstacles to effective governance since the Dayton Peace Agreement in late 1995, Bosnia remains riven in many ways by religious and ethnic discord between its Muslim, ethnic Croatian, and ethnic Serbian communities.

But voters in the 40,000-resident town of Visoko on October 7 elected a woman mayor, Amra Babic, who wears the Islamic head scarf. Babic, a trained economist and former finance minister on the canton level, hailed the choice as "a model for Europe and Islam" in an AFP story. She called it "a great victory of democracy." "I will never abuse politics for religion," Babic was quoted as saying. "If I have the strength to protect my own rights, I will find the strength to protect the rights of others." RFE/RL's Balkan Service says the news has received scant attention in local media, noting that head scarves are not necessarily a reflection of closely held religious beliefs so much as a routine fashion accessory. They suggest it's a clear victory for Bosnian women, however. That's a perspective that Babic herself embraced, saying, "My fellow citizens showed a great open spirit because they elected me first as a woman but also as a woman who wears a veil." The victory has been picked up by media outlets from Iran to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, calling her "Europe's first hijab-wearing mayor." Babic is a member of the late Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action, a leading party among Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslims that played a historic role in independence. The Islamic head scarf, or hijab, was illegal in the former Yugoslavia. Babic told AFP that she never wore one until turning to Islam for comfort after the death of her husband, with whom she has three children, in the Bosnian conflict of 1992-95. She now heads a civic group that brings together the families of Muslim men killed in that fighting. "I put on the veil after my husband's death," she recalls, adding that the religion had helped her to overcome the loss.

"My religion tells me that everything that happens is God's will. It helped me to concentrate my energy and survive. My sons are my greatest motivation," she said. -- Andy Heil

Bosnians elect their first hijab-wearing mayor


By AIDA CERKEZ | Associated Press Wed, Oct 24, 2012

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Associated Press/Amel Emric - This Oct. 16, 2012 photo shows Amra Babic, mayor of the Bosnian town of Visoko, answering a journalist question during an interview, in Visoko, 30 km north of Sarajevo, Bosnia. more The 43 year-old economist has blazed a trail in this war-scarred Balkan nation by becoming its first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe. Her victory comes as governments elsewhere in Europe debate laws to ban the Muslim veil, and Turkey, another predominantly Islamic country seeking EU membership, maintains a strict policy of keeping religious symbols out of public life. For Babic, the electoral triumph is proof that observance of Muslim tradition is compatible with Western democratic values. (AP Photo/Amel Emric) less

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This Oct. 16, 2012 photo shows

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This Oct. 16, 2012 photo shows VISOKO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) When Amra Babic walks down the streets of the central Bosnian town of Visoko wearing her Muslim headscarf, men sitting in outdoor cafes instantly rise from their chairs, fix their clothes and put out their cigarettes. The respect is only natural: Babic is their new mayor. The 43 year-old economist has blazed a trail in this war-scarred Balkan nation by becoming its first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe. Her victory comes as governments elsewhere in Europe debate laws to ban the Muslim veil, and Turkey, another predominantly Islamic country seeking EU membership, maintains a strict policy of keeping religious symbols out of public life. For Babic, the electoral triumph is proof that observance of Muslim tradition is compatible with Western democratic values. "It's a victory of tolerance," the wartime widow says. "We have sent a message out from Visoko. A message of tolerance, democracy and equality." She sees no contradiction in the influences that define her life. "I am the East and I am the West," she declares. "I am proud to be a Muslim and to be a European. I come from a country where religions and cultures live next to each other. All that together is my identity."

For centuries, Bosnia has been a cultural and religious mix of Muslim Bosniaks, Christian Orthodox Serbs and Roman Catholic Croats who occasionally fought each but most of the time lived peacefully together. Then came the Balkans wars of the 1990s in which ethnic hatreds bottled up by Yugoslavia's communist regime exploded as the federation disintegrated. Bosnia's Muslim majority fell victim to the genocidal rampage of ethnic Serbs seeking to form a breakaway state. As an economist and local politician, Babic has played an active role in Bosnia's emergence from the ashes. She was a bank auditor and served as the regional finance minister before running for mayor. Now Babic feels she is ready to run this town of 45,000 people, mostly Bosnian Muslims, for the next four years. She wants to fix the infrastructure, partly ruined by the Bosnian 1992-95 war and partly by post-war poverty. And she plans to make Visoko attractive for investment, encouraging youth to start small businesses. It's all part of her strategy to fight the town's unemployment rate of over 25 percent. "We are proud to have elected her," says Muris Karavdic, 38, a local small business owner. "It doesn't matter whether she covewrs her head or not. She is smart and knows finances." Babic sees her victory as breaking multiple barriers, from bigotry against women in a traditionally male-dominated society to stigmatization of the hijab that sprang up under the communist regime. "Finally we have overcome our own prejudices," she says. "The one about women in politics, then the one about hijab-wearing women and even the one about hijabwearing women in politics." Babic, of the center-right Party for Democratic Action, decided to wear her headscarf after her husband was killed fighting in the Bosnian Army, and views it as "a human right." Religion and hard work helped her overcome his death, raise their three boys alone and pursue a career. Babic says she is ready to work around the clock and prove people in Visoko made the right choice. This, she hopes, may clear the way for more women to follow her path. By Bosnian law, at least 30 percent of the candidates in any election have to be women, but voters have been reluctant to give women a chance. Only five of the 185 mayors elected on October 7 are women. Signs of the respect Babic commands in Visoko abound.

Election posters still up around town have been scrawled with vampire teeth, mustaches or spectacles; none of Babic's posters bear such graffiti. Older hijab-wearing women stop in front of her pictures as if hypnotized by her determined blue eyes. Some are seen crying and caressing the image on the wall. "They probably look at my picture and think of their lost opportunities," Babic says. "They probably think: Go, girl! You do it if I couldn't."